Chinese make big step toward artificial hibernation for humans

Summary:

Hibernation is a state that some animals enter during the winter in order to survive adverse conditions. It is characterized by a reduction in metabolism and a lowering of body temperature. Primates, including humans, do not normally hibernate or experience a state known as torpor, in which the body’s metabolism slows down and body temperature lowers. However, a research team from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology in China has recently announced the successful induction of hypothermia in nonhuman primates by activating a group of hypothalamic neurons. The study, published in The Innovation on December 3, used a combination of chemogenetic manipulation, functional magnetic resonance imaging, behavioral analysis, and monitoring of various physiological and biochemical parameters. The researchers targeted excitatory neurons in the preoptic area of the hypothalamus in the monkeys’ brains using a virus carrying a special chemical, and found that activating these neurons with the chemical Clozapine N-oxide caused the monkeys’ body temperature to lower and their metabolism to slow down. This is the first time that hypothermia has been successfully induced in primates, and it could potentially be used in the development of artificial hibernation for human space travel.

Article:

Hibernation is a way that some animals survive winter by slowing down their bodies. They have less energy and their body temperature goes down.

Most primates, like humans and monkeys, do not naturally hibernate or go into a state where their body temperature goes down and they have less energy. However, researchers from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology in China have found a way to make monkeys’ body temperature go down and have less energy by activating a group of brain cells. They did this by using a special chemical and a brain scan. The researchers found that when they did this, the monkeys’ body temperature went down and they had less energy. This is the first time this has been done in monkeys and it could be helpful for humans who want to travel in space.

The researchers studied how the body temperature of monkeys is regulated by combining different methods, including using a special chemical to manipulate the monkeys’ brain cells and a brain scan to see how their brains responded. They found that activating a specific group of neurons in the monkeys’ brains with a chemical called Clozapine N-oxide caused their body temperature to go down. When the monkeys’ body temperature went down, they had less energy and moved around less.

The researchers also looked at how the monkeys’ bodies and behaviors changed when their body temperature was lowered. They found that monkeys try to keep their body temperature up by increasing their heart rate, shivering, and moving around more. This is different from mice, who slow down and have a lower heart rate when their body temperature goes down.

Illustration of how preoptic neurons drive hypothermia and cold defense, together with an example of the potential application in spaceflight
Illustration of how preoptic neurons drive hypothermia and cold defense, together with an example of the potential application in spaceflight

The researchers believe that their findings are important because they show that it is possible to make monkeys’ body temperature go down and have less energy. This could be useful for humans who want to travel in space, as it could help them survive the long journey. The researchers also believe that their findings could help us better understand how the body temperature of primates is regulated and how it can be controlled.

“This work provides the first successful demonstration of hypothermia in a primate based on targeted neuronal manipulation,” said Dr. Wang Hong from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “With the growing passion for human spaceflight, this hypothermic monkey model is a milestone on the long path toward artificial hibernation.”


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